Directed by Paul Greengrass (director of the Bourne movies), Captain Phillips is a gritty movie, shot in a documentary-esque style that powerfully showcases the bravery of Phillips actions and ordeals.
Now some backstory on this movie. In April 2009 Captain Richard Phillips headed out with his container ship the MV Maersk Alabama, to Mombasa, Kenya. The waters of the Somalian coast are known for high piracy activities and the ships passing through were warned of the dangers of the waters.
The Somalian waters were and are considered some of the most dangerous in the world. Just that year, 66 ships had already been under pirate attacks and 16 were still considered under hostage situations.
On April 8, 2009 four Somali pirates boarded and overtook the Maersk Alabama. The crew later used force to capture one of the pirates in exchange for Captain Phillips (who was being detained on the bridge) and under the condition that they would leave the ship. The exchange was unsuccessful and Captain Phillips was taken hostage on a lifeboat.
The movie dives into the life of the Captain as he is leaving his Vermont home to travel to Africa to marine his vessel, the Alabama.
He is instantly appealing, not just because he is played by an amazing actor like Tom Hanks, but his down-to-earth normal guy style is relatable and his confident mannerism to operate a colossal ship along treacherous waters is admirable (even though WE know what lies ahead).
All is well as he commandeers his ship and patronizes with his fellow crewmates until a little blip on the screen turns out to be an actual pirate threat.
The crew kicks into gear to deter the pirates from the ship and scare them from coming onto the ship. Initially they are successful, and pirate’s boat engine breaks down.
However, they are back the next day and this time they’re determined, vengeful, and board the ship. The pirates are what you expect. Ferocious, haphazard, and almost humanistic with an extreme touch of terrorism.
Muse the leader of this particular band of pirates, “lovingly” called Skinny is played by first time actor Barkhad Abdi who brings a certain charisma to the role that leaves the viewer almost sympathizing for him even when he’s shoving his Ak-47 in people’s faces. He considers himself a captain too and this adds the drama of two men’s struggle for dominance over each other.
What do the pirates want? Their goal is purely monetary and influenced by the terrorist regime controlling their town. Their justification to the captain is that they are fishermen driven to commit crimes because of Western fishing fleets overtaking their waters and depriving them of their commodity: fish (an obvious lie that the Captain does not buy).
The captain then gets taken hostage by the pirates, just like in real life and spends four terrifying days in a confined lifeboat trying to save his own life while anxiously awaiting for rescue from the American Navy.
Eventually the famed “SEAL Team Six” (that Hollywood loves so much, think back to Zero Dark Thirty) of the United States Navy arrives and executes a precise mission that tricks Skinny into coming out of the lifeboat and ultimately saving Captain Phillips.
Captain Phillips is a forceful and suspenseful joy ride that does not stop and intensifies as it continues. The documentary-esque way it is filmed gives an audience a voyeuristic view of what supposedly happened off the shores of the African Coast. It is gritty, is it is emotional, and riveting. This is the first movie of the year that I easily give 4 out of 4 stars too.
– Ruhi Randhawa, A&E Editor